Taking Care

We’re enduring another big blow today–temperatures predictably plunging after a brief hiatus in the 20s and 30s, this time an inch or two of snow, and then the wind begins again in earnest and the world beyond the grove-edge disappears.


I was lazy this morning in a way I don’t often allow myself to be. Of course I let the dog out and fed her, made coffee and turned on the light in the chicken coop.  But, the newest issue of The Sun magazine came yesterday, and after fixing the floor lamp above one corner of the couch, I sat down and devoured it until almost noon.

John asked me to make a quiche, and he sautéed the bacon-and-onion filling while I mixed, chilled, and blind-baked crust, then filled it and baked it again. He kept thinking it was ready before it was, and then just as he had given up thinking about it, I brought him a plate with a warm slice.

Quiche isn’t hard. Soufflé isn’t hard, either, but I think we get hung up on anything French as being difficult or fussy or not right if it isn’t perfect. My quiche isn’t perfect, but I like eating it anyway (and thankfully, so does John). There are a series of steps, but they are enjoyable to break up a snow-bound morning at home. The most laborious thing is the crust; but it isn’t difficult when you aren’t trying to be perfect about it. Flour, lard, salt, water. Cutting, chilling, rolling, patching. If I thought my requirement was to make a perfect crust, I wouldn’t bother making it, and if I didn’t make it, I wouldn’t get incrementally closer to a perfect crust each time.

This issue of The Sun was thought-provoking as always, and also disturbing as some issues can be. The disquiet came from one story wherein the narrator describes a character injecting herself with Ritalin. I am incapable of thinking about syringes without a weak-jointed shudder, and I kept looking away from the page as if I were looking away from the actual scene of an injection–then returning as if it were my sole responsibility to follow through on a patient’s care and bring the story to its conclusion.

I admire nurses greatly for their capacity to do this kind of work–and maybe more so for the fact that I would be utterly incapable of it (though with a sterilized sewing needle I can extract almost any sliver).


In the latest Northern Star, our local paper, there is a front page above-the-fold story written by a nurse and community member, Maria Botker, about her family’s quest for treatment for their youngest daughter, Greta. Greta suffers from a severe and difficult-to-manage form of epilepsy, and Maria and Greta have moved to Colorado to seek treatment with a specific form of medical marijuana, which is legal in that state. The story was heart-felt and hopeful–Greta’s seizures have been reduced!–but their family remains separated because the drug laws in Minnesota forbid the use of marijuana as medicine, and Maria’s husband Mark and two eldest daughters remain here on the farm and in their familiar school district.

It’s interesting how relationships can change one’s perspective on an issue, isn’t it? The last thing I expected to see in my tiny, socially conservative western Minnesota community was an article by a well-respected community member asking people to think about legalizing medical marijuana. But, policy becomes personal when it affects a well-known and liked family, and when neighbors are asked to consider, “what would you do?” Of course, you would do everything you could to take care of your child, and no one wants to see families split up.

When the story is personal, it’s hard to think of as a “strategy,” but it is. The policy needs changing, and it’s the personal stories–especially about people you know–that help you relate, and perhaps reconsider your position. It may be a difficult issue, but in the end it often comes down to our values–help for those who suffer, and loving our neighbor. I applaud Maria for sharing it, and the Northern Star for featuring it prominently in their paper.

BTW, there’s also a story in today’s Star Tribune about the issue, and it features the Botker’s story as well. You can read it here.


This lazy Sunday feels like a gift after having threaded the needle in my travels of late–between blizzards and Polar Vortex sequels I managed to attend a media workshop in Minneapolis and travel the opposite direction to the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society’s winter conference in Aberdeen, South Dakota. I’ll admit I left before the last session (and supper!) yesterday afternoon, after becoming sufficiently spooked by weather forecasts and the anticipated route through Summit and the Coteau des Prairies on U.S. Highway 12. Viewed on a topographical map, it might be barely noticeable to those used to mountain vistas, but conditions are often several shades worse up there than anywhere else. I’ve driven out of a clear blue sky Minnesota River Valley up into sleet, high winds, and dense fogs near Summit that helped it earn its local nickname: The Bermuda Triangle of South Dakota.

However, the idea of an entirely carefree day evaporated early this afternoon, when I discovered Alice, the feral cat-who-thinks-she’s-a-chicken, lying prone between the basement windows. She’d been sheltering there off and on through the bad weather, but she’d disappeared for a close to a week, so I was watching for her return. Alice is usually very alert about anyone approaching–even growling between mouthfuls when I bring her food, so I was alarmed to see her unresponsive.

I ran inside to get her a plate of soft food and chicken broth, and as I got closer, she didn’t budge. I touched, then jiggled her–nothing. I dragged her out by the towel she lay on–the grimace of death was on her face–eyes wide and unseeing, tongue protruding between her teeth. After coming inside and having a good cry, I pulled together a couple of plastic bags to store her body in ’til the ground thaws in spring. Pulling her out of the window well with plastic bag in hand, she let out a small moan, and the very tip of her tail twitched. She was limp, not stiff. And she was alive–though just barely.

I ran inside, laying her on the mudroom’s boot mat, then frantically gathered cat carrier, blanket, and heating pad. She’s now residing temporarily in the downstairs bathroom, where I am checking on her every half hour or so. With a wide syringe (for oral medication, not injections), I tried to give her a little chicken broth, and I think at least some of it went down her throat instead of my sleeve. I’ll try to give her a little more before our supper, and again before bed. She’s still limp, but breathing. Her bowels have evacuated, her eyes stare at death, and her tongue lolls.

Despite our agreed-upon prohibitions against any more inside cats, Alice–on the seemingly unlikely chance she survives–will be granted a reprieve from “outsider” status to regain her strength away from the icy winds and stinging snow.

Meanwhile, we wonder when our reprieve will come–when the white-outs will subside, when we can break through the still-mounting drifts, and step into a warm and spring-heralding sunshine.

[Update 1/27: Alice passed away yesterday evening. She will be buried on our farm in spring.]

Alice, circa 2008, with one of her kittens. Photo credit, Joanne Svendsen.

Alice, circa 2008, with one of her kittens. Photo credit, Joanne Svendsen.

3 thoughts on “Taking Care

  1. thank you for yet another very fine morning read!! i so enjoy your style:) and deep sympathy for your loss. alice gave many story telling moments and lives on through them!!

  2. Very nice comments about the Botker family – love your blog!! Just need to remember to read it more often!! Sorry about the loss of Alice!

    • Janine–Botkers were regular customers at the co-op, trying to help Greta’s condition with dietary changes and avoiding allergens.
      Maria left us a very nice note before they left, thanking us for all our help.
      Thanks for your kind words about Alice.

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